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Palahniuk's Haunted reviewed!


By Chris Gaede

Chuck Palahniuk is most famous for writing the novel FIGHT CLUB, but he is also the author of several other successful novels. His latest, HAUNTED, about a writer’s retreat gone wrong, is one of his strongest yet. But let’s back up a bit. As it was said in the movie with the helicopters, napalm, and a bald Brando: there is no way to tell his story without telling my own.

Well, Jesus…not the whole thing, don’t worry. Just this one part…

Set the “way back” machine for 1999. I was having a very bad year. A lot of things happened, a couple of emotional breakdowns that I would love to take back, mixed in with a dash of general self loathing, a healthy portion of feeling sorry for myself, and a heavy dose of feeling completely out of step with the world…wait…actually, that last one never really went away. Not to mention, I was having a lot of trouble sleeping.

Then I read an article about David Fincher’s new movie called FIGHT CLUB, based on a book by some guy that I had never heard of. The book sounded great: people beating the crap out of each other, space monkeys, tourism in cancer groups, and more. The day after reading the article I began to look for the book, since I had to wait months for the movie to spill onto screens. I had no luck in regular bookstores, but I did somehow locate it at a store called Half Price Books. I found it to be a strange coincidence.

I plowed through the book. I think I got a little angry. Chuck Palahniuk had managed to write about most of the things I was feeling. The difference being that he had the balls to write it down and put his personal feelings out there for the world to see. He did what anyone who writes would love to do: take their own experiences and turn into a piece of work that other people can relate to.

The point being that somebody like me read it, and for a time, albeit too brief, actually felt a little better. I think this is why most of the people that read Chuck’s books feel so passionate about them. As I get older, the one common thing that ties everyone together seems to be this: most people are deeply unhappy. It’s natural then that Chuck’s fans would identify with his books. I suspect that my story is nearly identical to most of Chuck’s fans.

After reading the book, I came across what would eventually become his official website, www.chuckpalahniuk.net. The site, run by longtime fan Dennis Widmyer, is a fantastic treasure trove of interviews, info, etc. I was wearing a t-shirt advertising the website when I finally got to meet Chuck in person last summer. He was helping to tear tickets at the front door at a screening of FIGHT CLUB in Westwood. People swarmed around Chuck, they were so excited. But he was gracious and kind to everyone, even accepting their gifts: packages, DVDs, porn (I believe I saw him “regifting” the porn to another fan, as he had two copies).

Every year has usually brought a new Chuck book to stores. His new book, HAUNTED, is another trip down the dark back alley of the human mind. Several writers answer an ad for a writer’s retreat that sounds too good to be true. Three months away from cell phones, traffic, the rest of the world, etc. But instead of some scenic getaway, with horses and grass and sunshine, the writers who answer the ad find themselves locked in an old theater. They are held captive by their host, with only MRE’s and their stories to pass the time. Will paranoia and infighting destroy them, or will it lead to the ultimate artistic achievement? What follows is sick and twisted…and utterly original. The book is broken down into the individual stories that these characters tell. They’re not horror stories, at least not what you think. Trust me, you’ll get the willies, maybe even the booboogeebies. What you won’t get is bored.

The real stand out story is GUTS, which Chuck has been reading on tour for some time now. As you can read on the OFFICIAL SITE, some 67 people have fainted while listening to Chuck read the story at author events. I didn’t believe it, and then I read the story…now I get it. Let’s just say that you won’t be prone to doing anything sexual in a swimming pool…ever again. I could go on and on about these stories, but then that would be spoiling everything. Besides, why deny a reader the chance to squirm?

Sometimes art provokes the reaction of an unwanted glance into a mirror. It can hit a little too close to home, the familiar sting that comes when we get self-reflexive. But looking in that mirror can teach us something about ourselves. I think I learn a little more about myself every time I read one of Chuck’s books. Even if I don’t like what I learn, it helps me know what needs to change.

To anyone who made it this far, I know you wanted a simple book review. But sometimes, some books just aren’t that simple. And that’s why Chuck Palahniuk is the man. He’s not simple, he’s not afraid of exposing embarrassing truths about the human condition. He shines a light into the places we don’t want to go. His books make me feel uncomfortable because they are honest. We need more of that.


Source: JoBlo.com



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